I do not subscribe to the notion that democracy is too weak to tame violence and disorder, the types currently emasculating the Nigerian space.
It’s question time. What is the colour of democracy? Green, purple, blue, yellow, black or red? Perhaps, all of the above? Well, the answer is any of these colours depending on the country and the people.
In some climes, democracy is of the green hue denoting a lush verdant of political peace and abundance in the virtues of popular government. So, what is the colour of democracy in Africa? Red? Just that. But in Nigeria, it is crimson red, signifying a polity in atrophy. Mind you, this is not the assessment of a high noon alarmist. Never. Or how else could you sum up the precipitate entropy in our polity. Like an overheated catacomb, the nation’s political matrix is in an eternal state of entropy, utter disorder and chaos.
In analytical chemistry, entropy is a state of disorderliness in a system. The same can be said of the Nigerian political ecosystem in the past 24 months or thereabout. The subsisting bedlam and confusion are daily gnawing at the foundation, making the entire political structure anaemic, almost. With the rebirth of democracy in 1999, we had thought we’ve seen the last of urban violence, ethno-religious uprisings, brazen banditry, raw nepotism and inequity in the distribution of resources. But each passing day, the reverse appears the case. Violence is still our second nature. Ethnic and religious upheavals have become the only enduring signposts on our highways and byways. Banditry has staged a come-back with fresh fervour and equity has taken flight to far-off places.
In our home grown democracy, justice has transformed to a highly priced jewel only fit for the affluent. Take a teaser. In Zamfara State where the Islamic legal code, Sharia, is an opium, a certain Citizen Buba Bello alias Jangebe once had his arm chopped off for allegedly stealing a cow. Jangebe was a notorious cattle rustler. He was convicted on March 22, 2000 by a Sharia court. In the best of times at that time, a cow couldn’t cost more than N30,000. Poor Jangebe would only have got a slap on his wrist if he were some wealthy and influential political goon but never; he got justice served in a red bloody broth and that expeditiously. Yet, out of the same Zamfara spewed forth a surfeit of reports on raw corruption running into billions of naira by government officials while the Sharia enforcers looked the other way.
Sadly, ever since Jangebe got his hand chopped off in 2000, no other person has been so convicted yet cattle rustling in that part of the country is on the ascendancy.
I do not subscribe to the notion that democracy is too weak to tame violence and disorder, the types currently emasculating the Nigerian space. Democracy in its pure form promotes the building of institutions as against the making of powerful individuals. Unfortunately, Nigerian democracy thrives in the opposite. It promotes individuals far above institutions.
When some individuals arrogate to themselves excessive powers that make them tower above the law, the society suffers for it. Why is it that past leaders of the country including those who openly stole and those who stealthily helped themselves from the national till at federal, state and as heads of agencies and parastatals are walking free without the faintest hint that they would someday face prosecution?
Why do we consider raw show of nepotism not as criminal as raw stealing of our money? Why did we populate our parliaments at any level with persons who are themselves law-breakers, crooks and political thugs?
Nobody raises a stir that the likes of Muhammadu Buhari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Bukola Saraki, Goodluck Jonathan and a long list of others who had been previously indicted of one crime or another are still the ones dictating to the rest of the people how to live within the limits of the law.
The case of cow-thief Jangebe was expeditiously adjudicated under three months but the cases of stolen billions by affluent and influential Nigerians have dragged for decades. In some cases, the courts are not even approached let alone getting a conviction. A society that elevates men above the law creates entropy in its polity. Nigeria is adept at such.
Why are we not bothered that democracy has further divided us; that a system of government which underpins unity in diversity and promotes excellence and social justice in other climes has brought upon us fault-lines of bigotry, inequity, injustice and ethno-religious polarity. But democracy is not an instrument of hate; it is not an instrument of division. In other climes, democracy has been put to good use to rally the people into a united, purpose-driven unit to achieve the common good but not so here.
We have deployed democracy to rally the people to their various tents; to remind us that we are not one; that we are Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Fulani, Ijaw etcetera. And because we have effectively defined our individual identities along primitive lines of religion and ethnicity, we follow it up with mortal hate, bloodletting and unmitigated savagery. Entropy!
The harvest of death in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Anambra, the annihilation of communities in Ebonyi, Delta and elsewhere by identifiable herdsmen while law-enforcers and those whose duty it is to protect the people play the possum is symptomatic of a nation steeped in the swirls of entropic disorder.
In the last couple of days, a whiff of furry wafted through the air in yet another ethno-religious uprising in Kaduna State during which the once serene ambience was tuned to a macabre dunghill of death. Lives, human lives, were wasted at the snap of the fingers. Property were destroyed in the most tragi-comic manner such that you wouldn’t know whether to cry or laugh. A colleague who witnessed the mayhem described it as a show of shame and a senseless clash of religious intolerance.
Since the journey to democracy started, the nation has gone through a peristalsis of self-induced convulsions. If it is not ethnic feud, it is religious umbrage. And when it is not violence precipitated by increase in fuel prices, it is political acrimony pitting the executive against the legislature.
Why, for heaven’s sake are we over-heating the system and making democracy assume the temper and temperament of boiling water in a kettle set on a gas burner- volatile and effervescent?
The truth is, it will be no gain to anyone here if democracy fails. Not even the military with an inveterate penchant to seize power in the name of righting the wrongs of the civil class. Democracy is a pristine political expression which is fast becoming a way of life in developing countries.
It thrives on the strength of the common good of all. And such good must be the product of representative efforts.
Yet barely 19 clear years into democracy, the executive and the legislature are still behaving in a manner that suggests we are still tied to the apron of dictatorship. These two arms of government are not disagreeing, they are indeed fighting. Strangely, there is no let up yet in the fray. And as they fight, the people faint. We faint from hunger and despair on the streets, in our homes and in the workplaces.
We fought so hard to beget democracy. Now, we are fighting even harder to make it unworkable. Such a pathetic paradox. For every cool breath we take in, we let out a hail of hot, horrid air into the political system. That is what we have succeeded in doing these past 19 years: creating entropy in the polity. And I fear.